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Bahamas Prime Minister Speaks at 76th Session of UN General Assembly

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SATURDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 2021

“Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to

the needs of the planet, respect the rights of

people and revitalize the United Nations” Introduction

 

 

#TheBahamas, September 26, 2021 – Esteemed Colleague Heads of State and Heads of Government, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres;

President of the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives:

On September 16th, Bahamian citizens took to the polls to make their voices heard.   It is an honour to meet with you fewer than ten days after this peaceful exercise of the democratic process.

I wish to extend congratulations to the

Maldives, a sister Small Island Developing State, on their election to the helm of this General Assembly. Know that you will find The Bahamas to be a strong, engaged and thoughtful partner for the road ahead.

We also congratulate Secretary-General Gutteres on his re-election to a second term, and wish him every success.

Colleagues, we are meeting at a most extraordinary time. We come here from different corners of the earth, with our theme — “building resilience through hope” – reflecting our shared determination to pivot from crisis to opportunity.

These crises are inter-connected and multifaceted, and need a global response.    We must collaborate to end the Covid-19 pandemic and address public health issues.

We must co-operate to mitigate the effects of climate change.

And access to development financing must be equitable and fair.

An inadequate response to these issues will have dire consequences for the global economy.

 

Collaborating to End the Pandemic

The world has changed enormously since we first learned about the COVID-19 virus.

This crisis made abundantly clear what has always been true: we’re all in this together.

In every country, we have lost loved ones. We have seen our healthcare workers battle bravely. We have contended with disruption, uncertainty, and grief.

We have benefited from extraordinary cooperation and achievements in science, but we also had to contend with misinformation and disinformation,  and insufficient attempts to curb bad actors propagating the same. Bad information has flowed across borders, undermining public health and public trust.

The pandemic has been very difficult for countries like mine. We face an extraordinary need for new resources in health and education and housing just as our economy is contracting dramatically.

Our inter-connected world means that we will only be safe when all countries, including mine, have the tools needed to fight this virus.

This requires the equitable distribution of vaccines. That includes distribution to Small Island Developing States, who are not manufacturers. Stockpiling for self-preservation is a fallacy.

You will only be safe when we are all safe!

I wish to thank the Government and People of the United States for their donations of vaccines to The Bahamas and the wider Caribbean region.

This gift, alongside donations received previously from India, China, Antigua & Barbuda, and Dominica, will save many Bahamian lives. This is in addition to the ongoing support of PAHO, CARPHA and the COVAX facility and the regional collaboration among CARICOM countries.

But this is still not enough. We need more. Our demand for vaccines has significantly outstripped supply.

Along with vaccines, it is important that safe treatments and therapeutics, are made accessible and designated as public goods. We need to fortify critical global supply chains, and distribution mechanisms, so that we can win this battle, and be better prepared for the next one.      You will only be safe, when we are all safe!    The Bahamas joins those reiterating the need to fully fund the ‘Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator’ and its COVAX facility. And we reiterate our alignment with CARICOM’s call for continued high-level engagement to urgently address access to vaccines.

When vaccines are deployed to reduce transmission, everyone is made safer –  not just the direct recipient.  We can, by doing so, reduce the opportunities for new and more dangerous variants to emerge. This virus is  global and requires a global response. COP26 Matters/ Disasters Response

Colleagues, even before COVID-19 shut down my country’s borders, we were dealing with a catastrophic shock to our economy and our country.

Two years ago this month, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic caused catastrophic damage to our islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Hurricane Dorian was strengthened by waters that were well above average temperatures; the earth’s changing climate means that hurricanes like Dorian linger longer and cause more damage.

The devastation caused by this storm is part of our country’s landscape; the physical and emotional wreckage are still with us.

Recently I spoke with a woman who lost her husband and her three children in the storm. Every rainfall is a reminder of the horror. How can we continue to do nothing in the face of such tragedy?

The very worst thing about Dorian is our sense of foreboding – our sense that this hurricane, which took so much from so many – is only the beginning.

None of us believe this is a once-in-a-generation storm. Instead, we know it is a nightmare that could easily recur – tomorrow, next week, next month.

To any leader who believes we still have plenty of time to address climate change, I invite you to visit Abaco and Grand Bahama.

For island nations such as ours, climate change is here. And is a real and present danger.

Before Hurricane Dorian in 2019, we faced hurricanes: in 2015, in 2016, and in 2017.  We cannot survive this “new normal”.

Thus, we are not here to call for measured steps. We are here to say that big and radical change is the only response that can save our country. We are out of time.

We stand with CARICOM countries and Small Island Developing States to remind the world that those who are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report warned that avoiding the worst outcomes requires immediate action; this is, as the Secretary-General noted, a ‘Code Red’ moment.

Our countries disproportionately bear the burden of the “Recovery Trap”, in which we attempt to rebuild to the tune of billions – billions we never had, even before COVID.

 

Colleagues, in a few short weeks, we will meet in Glasgow, Scotland.

The 26th Climate Change Conference cannot be like the twenty-five that preceded it – we cannot pretend that incremental change is sufficient. We cannot set goals we have no intention of meeting. We cannot keep postponing the change we need for countries like mine to survive.

If we are the serious leaders these times require, we must raise our ambitions, and make real commitments to cut emissions.

We must make real progress on bridging the divides in investment, and access-to-technology and skills, especially in areas relevant to climate mitigation and adaptation.

We must strengthen technical assistance for creating, nationally-determined contribution (NDC) commitments, along with commensurate ‘implementation financing’.

We must give teeth and substance to the mechanism for loss and damage if it is to be a meaningful tool for supporting fair recovery, and not simply an exercise in defining and highlighting disaster risk.

Along with our sister nations in CARICOM,

The Bahamas calls for greater climate financing and the need for more engagement and progress on a Climate Investment Platform.

And, as a matter of priority, more innovative financing and debt solutions are needed, including debt for climate adaptation swaps. We also look forward to the capitalization of a Caribbean Resilience Fund. We also need adequate resourcing and timely access to the ‘Green Climate Fund’ and the ‘Climate Finance Accelerator’.

In our just-concluded campaign, we called for new renewable energy initiatives in our own country. We are going to build structural and economic resilience, in a green recovery, with plans to invest in climate-smart infrastructure and environmental protection.

The Bahamas will lead on wetland and ocean preservation, and we will seek re-election to the International Maritime Organization. We look forward to the Biodiversity Conference

next month; we are committed to the successful conclusion of negotiations towards an international treaty to conserve marine bio-diversity.  Advancing an MVI/ Affordable, Accessible Development Financing

Colleagues, the compounding impact of economic, environmental, and now public health shocks, means that access to affordable finance will be the real driver of progress in the near and long term.

The global development financing gap for meeting Sustainable Development Goals by

2030, estimated in 2019 to be $2.5 trillion, is only increasing.

Today we reiterate our country’s support for the inclusion of a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index in the decision-making of international financial institutions, and the international donor community.

On a related front, we believe that access to the global financial system and tax cooperation should not be undermined: by ad hoc and consistently shifting and arbitrary goal posts, and threats of exclusion from the global economy.

Financial Services is a crucial component of the Bahamian economy. We see an indispensable role for the UN in leveraging its universal jurisdiction for greater oversight of global antimoney laundering, de-risking and tax cooperation matters.

Cuba

On a separate note, I wish to convey The Bahamas’ rejection of the ongoing economic blockade of our sister Caribbean nation of Cuba.

Conclusion

As I conclude, I recall the words of our nation’s first Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, as he stood here 48 years ago this month, on the occasion of our nation’s accession to the United Nations.

He spoke about the journey of our people, from slavery to colonialism to sovereign independence.

He spoke of our country’s wish to be neither dominated nor coerced, and our wish to build friendships with nations who respected our freedom.

He could not have foreseen at that time the challenges we face today, with intensifying hurricanes and a deadly virus that has left no nation untouched. But he saw already that “no nation is an island unto itself” and spoke of the interdependence of all countries.    That interdependence has never been clearer.

Rest assured, colleagues, that in The Bahamas you will find a trusted partner, committed to moving forward on our collective goals for sustainable development, security, and peace.

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PM Davis: Artificial Intelligence Micro-Course Graduation is ‘something very special’

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – During his Official Remarks at the University of The Bahamas-Partanna-King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Intensive Micro-Course Graduation Ceremony, on May 22, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that he believed that those involved had accomplished “something very special.”

“I see this as the start of what will hopefully be an ongoing initiative, as we embrace the power of strategic partnerships and innovative ideas that can empower our people for success,” he said, during the ceremony held at Choices Restaurant on UB Main Campus.

Among those present included UB Acting President Janyne Hodder; UB Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Dr. Maria Woodside-Oriakhi; Dean of the UB College of Business Dr. Marlo Murphy-Braynen; UB Chair of the School of Business Daniel Thompson; Dr. Dematee Mohan of the Office of the Prime Minister; and Director-General of Bahamas Information Services Elcott Coleby.

A number of podium guests also assisted in presenting five micro-course graduates with scholarships to KAUST.

Prime Minister Davis stated that the world was currently going through an era of “rapid, and, I dare say, epic change.”

“They are calling it the triple transition, which includes climate change, demographic change, as well as digital change,” he noted.  “The Bahamas is experiencing each of these changes in profound ways.”

He added: “Climate change represents the biggest threat we have ever, ever faced, as well as the biggest opportunity to re-align our society with our values to make the world cleaner, healthier, more prosperous, and more just.  And then there is digital transformation, which requires tremendous investments in infrastructure, and, of course, education in digital skills so that our workforce can remain competitive in this new era.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that the impact of that global transition was so broad that embracing those changes as opportunities required the integration of climate resilience and digital innovation into every aspect of The Bahamas’ national development models.

“That is why I am so proud of what we have accomplished today,” he said.  “We have opened the eyes of these young Bahamian scholars to the vast world of digital transformation through AI and machine learning.”

“We have placed this great potential at their fingertips so that they can go on to be, not just consumers of digital technology, but also digital producers, disruptors, and innovators,” Prime Minister Davis added.

He pointed out that they lived in a time when AI had become commonplace. Universities, Prime Minister Davis added, were grappling with the ethical implications of natural language algorithms, like Chat GPT, which produced essays with just a few prompts.

“Programmers and writers are using open-source AI apps to become more efficient and productive,” he said.  “We are seeing the widespread application of AI in every sector that is redefining how we work.”

“The AI revolution has already made waves here in The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “Local businesses are using AI to collect data and empower their marketing initiatives.”

He continued:  “My administration has pioneered the use of AI at the Ministry of Tourism, where AI chatbots are facilitating more efficient customer service and AI algorithms are helping us to identify and target likely visitors.  Even the Water and Sewerage Corporation has begun using AI to detect leaks.

“But this is just the beginning.”

Prime Minister Davis said that AI was still in its infancy. In the near future, he added, AI will take over repetitive, everyday tasks in fields as vast as engineering, programming, law, accounting, marketing, and healthcare administration.

“We also anticipate using AI in our current efforts to fight climate change and make our nation more climate resilient,” Prime Minister Davis noted.  “With these changes, some current jobs may become obsolete, but new jobs within data science and AI will emerge.”

“We will need a robust supply of well-trained, well-educated professionals to ensure that The Bahamas continues to keep pace with global economic developments,” he added.  “And we want those professionals to be Bahamians.

“Today, we have taken steps toward building that future-focused workforce with 20 bright young scholars here at UB.”

Prime Minister Davis thanked KAUST, with special mention to Director Albarakati and Professor Khan for “partnering with us on this groundbreaking initiative.”

“I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful partnership that will enrich our students and allow for the exchange of knowledge between faculty to strengthen our institutions,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis also thanked Partanna, and its CEO, His Excellency, Ambassador Rick Fox, for helping to make the partnership happen through its funding and support.

“Thank you, as well, for your continued commitment to the environment through your groundbreaking carbon-negative concrete that will transform the global construction industry,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“Ambassador Fox, you are truly a proud son of our soil, and you continue to inspire us all,” he added.

Prime Minister thanked the faculty and staff at the University of The Bahamas for “their support in making this happen.”

“They often say if you can make it at UB, you can make it anywhere,” he pointed out.  “This saying has proven true, not just because of the academic integrity and rigour of UB’s programmes, but because of UB’s willingness to embrace change and opportunity.”

He added:  “Thank you to UB’s dynamic leadership team, President Hodder, UB’s Chair Mrs. Maynard Gibson, the Dean of the College of Business, Dr. Marlo Murphy Braynen, Dr. (Woodside-) Oriakhi and your team for making this possible.  Most importantly, thank you to the students who enrolled and committed to completing this course as an investment in your future and your future prospects.”

For those students who go on to continue their studies in AI, either at King Abdullah University or through other avenues, Prime Minister encouraged them to continue exploring their interests and talents.

“Continue adding in-demand skills to your repertoire and continue being trailblazers in your respective fields,” he said.  “Congratulations to all of you.”

“We will need bright, young leaders to take on the challenges that lay ahead of us,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “Based on what I am seeing today, I am confident that the future is in good, good hands.

“God bless you all and may He continue to bless our nation.”

PHOTO CAPTION

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis takes part in the University of The Bahamas-Partanna-King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Intensive Micro-Course Graduation Ceremony, on May 22, 2024, held at Choices Restaurant on UB Main Campus.  Among those present included UB Acting President Janyne Hodder; UB Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Maria Woodside-Oriakhi; Dean of the UB College of Business Dr. Marlo Murphy-Braynen; UB Chair of the School of Business Daniel Thompson; Dr. Dematee Mohan of the Office of the Prime Minister; and Director-General of Bahamas Information Services Elcott Coleby.  A number of podium guests also assisted in presenting five micro-course graduates with scholarships to KAUST.  (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

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124 HAITIAN NATIONALS REPATRIATED TO CAP-HAITIEN, HAITI

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#TheBahamas, May 21, 2024 – On Wednesday, May 15, the Department effectively executed the repatriation of a group of illegal migrants from the Lynden Pindling International Airport, New Providence to Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

At approximately 9:11 a.m., a Bahamasair chartered flight departed New Providence en route to Haiti with one hundred twenty-four (124) Haitian nationals onboard; a hundred and eight (108) adult males, thirteen (13) adult females and three (3) minors. The Department’s Deportation and Enforcement Units led the escort.

All security and health protocols were observed as the safety and welfare of our officers, law enforcement counterparts and migrants remain the highest priority.

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Introducing The Bahamas Cannabis Authority; Marijuana Bill tabled by Darville

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Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, May 20, 2024 – A medical marijuana industry is set for establishment in The Bahamas, following the tabling of the Cannabis Bill, 2024, in the House of Assembly, by Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Dr Michael Darville, May 15.

The Minister said objective of legislation is to set up a framework to establish The Bahamas Cannabis Authority, and to regulate the of importation, exportation, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, producing, sale, possession, distribution, and use of cannabis.

He told the Assembly that the law represents a thoughtful and balanced approach and was driven by a duty to act as he referenced the number of Bahamians who are battling cancer and in need of alternative treatments for pain management and other related issues.

“The legislative package, the Cannabis Bill, 2024 is designed to introduce a controlled system of cannabis use in medical treatments. The bill establishes the Bahamas Cannabis Authority.  A regulatory body overseeing all aspects of cannabis management and cultivation and distribution.  The authority’s mandate is to ensure that cannabis production and use are safe, controlled and effectively integrated into our health care system,” Minister Darville said.

Adding that the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that he also tabled, reclassifies cannabis by removing it from the dangerous drug list, now recognises its potential for medical use, he said the change aligns “our nations laws” with evolving global perspectives on cannabis.

The new law makes provisions for the licensing of cannabis handlers across various aspects of The Bahamas, and Dr. Darville said the licensing is structured to prioritise Bahamian ownership, with provisions ensuring that significant control remains in the hands of Bahamian nationals, fostering local entrepreneurship and economic benefits “for Bahamians across the country.

“We are here to make a difference, to enact change, remove years of stigma and transform lives by offering alternative treatments by way of medical cannabis.  The legislation before us offers a careful, considerate approach ensuring that we prioritize the wellbeing and safety of our citizens. Let us move with compassion,” he said.

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